By Brian Lawrence
Winter's here, and the holidays have wrapped up, leaving us craving the thrill of outdoor escapades. While generally mild and not known for its snow, the Creston Valley is still a great base camp for winter adventures in the surrounding area for snowshoeing, snowmobiling and backcountry skiing! But not just that!
Nestled close to several premier Kootenay ski hills, Creston serves as the perfect launchpad for exploring an array of powdered slopes. And let’s not forget the perfect ending to an adventure-packed day: après-adventure delights! Indulge in hearty dinners or clink glasses for celebratory drinks amidst the vibrant Creston ambiance.
So, if you're seeking a winter wonderland brimming with diverse adventures and cozy post-activity delights, the Creston Valley area is your ultimate destination!
Snowshoeing, Cross Country Skiing & Ice skating
For snowshoeing, the 1.7-kilometre Ka Papa Cedars Trail, west of Creston on Highway 3 heading up Kootenay Pass, meanders across a alpine creek and through a majestic and peaceful old growth cedar grove. The relatively short trail makes it an excellent choice for a quick jaunt. There are several wooden benches along the way, so a thermos of hot chocolate is a must — even if the weather is chilly. The more adventurous and experienced snowshoer may want to continue farther up Kootenay Pass to Stagleap Provincial Park for some deeper snow and truly alpine vistas (see the backcountry ski section below for more details).
For something closer to town, the many kilometres of flat-topped dikes of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area's Corn Creek Marsh and Summit Creek areas are also ideal for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing when the snow is deep enough and still a great place for a winter walk regardless. Even in the winter you never know what sort of wildlife you might see — perhaps a herd of elk trudging through the snow. Please note that any cross country ski trails are user-maintained, so those on foot should avoid walking through the cross-country ski tracks and use separate snowshoe tracks.
Finally, for those who prefer the glide of skates on ice, then Duck Lake at the north end of the Creston Valley Wildlife Management Area beckons. Renowned for bass fishing in the summer (and winter, too!), it usually freezes solidly enough to safely skate! Bring a shovel and a few warm snacks and enjoy the lake's naturally placid surface while taking in the epic views of the Purcell and Selkirk mountain ranges running down to either edge of the lake.
Sledding For All Ages & Experience Levels
The Creston Valley is also home to some epic sledding, courtesy of the Kokanee Country Snowmobile Club, stewards of several fantastic riding areas.
Up Kootenay Pass and very near the aforementioned Ka Papa Cedars trail, the very popular Char Creek area starts with a five-kilometre trail along the deactivated logging road, leading to a cozy cabin with a wood stove operated by the snowmobile club. From there, several routes await! Also northwest of Creston, the Topaz Creek area features tons of natural drops, jumps, and rolling hills that offer terrain for both beginners and experience sledders to enjoy. Meanwhile, near the hamlet of Kitchener to the east of Creston, the Russell Creek area promises family-friendly riding experiences. This area connects seamlessly to the Birch Creek trail system—a sprawling network that seems to stretch endlessly, as touted on the club's website.
If you're interested in sledding in the area be sure to contact the club before heading out; Membership grants access to these incredible areas, and it's crucial to stay informed about trail closures and other hazazrds. Safety first for an unforgettable ride through these snow-laden landscapes!
Kootenay Pass - A Backcountry Ski Paradise
North of the highway in the Park, the Cornice Ridge area is the perfect introduction to skiing Kootenay Pass, and has a day-use warm-up shelter at the main staging area. Farther afield more experienced backcountry riders will find more complex terrain around Missile Ridge, Camel's Hump and Buzz's Ridge. Finally, crossing over to the south side of the park unveils the Mount Baldy, Ripple Ridge, and Lightning Strike Ridge areas. Enthusiasts seeking prolonged exploration can also book overnight stays at the Ripple Ridge and Lightning Strike backcountry cabins managed by the Ripple Ridge Cabin Association — perfect base camps for multi-day excursions.
For those eager to dive deeper into the backcountry several qualified backcountry ski guides operate in the area, offering tailored excursions for groups or individuals as well as offering Avalanche Safety Training courses - critical to being able to safely enjoy exploring in this area. Speaking of safety, please ensure you're equipped with avalanche safety gear—beacon, shovel, and probe and always stay informed about weather and riding conditions via Avalanche Canada's website, a crucial step before embarking on your backcountry journey.
Basecamp for Kootenay Skiing (and Beyond)
Nestled at the heart of the East and West Kootenay regions, Creston also serves as an unparalleled "base camp" for avid powder seekers, with an array of ski hills reachable within a one to two-hour drive in almost every direction!
Head westward, and you'll find yourself at Nelson's renowned Whitewater and Rossland’s iconic Red Mountain, both promising exhilarating slopes and memorable skiing experiences. Looking eastward, the Kimberley Alpine Resort awaits with its family and beginner-friendly runs. If you're up for a slightly extended journey, venture towards the world famous Fernie Alpine Resort, approximately a 2.5-hour drive away. Finally, for a swift adventure just across the border, Schweitzer Mountain in Sandpoint, Idaho, beckons with it's great snow and just one hour of driving (more details on border crossing available here). Needless to say, while it's not home to it's own ski hill Creston stands as the perfect launchpad for skiing escapades, providing easy access to a diverse range of ski hills that cater to various preferences and skill levels.
Post-Adventure Fuel-Ups Around Town
After your outdoor adventures you'll probably want to warm up, and a visit to one of the coffee shops in Creston is sure to do the trick!
Specialty coffees and tasty treats at Retro Cafe, Buffalo Trails Coffee House and The Fly in the Fibre should be at the top of your list, along with the incredible cinnamon buns at Mountain Barn Bakery.
Or perhaps you need something more substantial after an intensive ride? There are so many great dinner options in Creston, from authentic sushi at Red Fin or Sushi Garden to homestyle fare at Real Food Cafe to tasty pub food at Casey's Community House. The 1898 Burger at Kokanee Pub shouldn't be missed, although I'm definitely a sucker for the Reuben sandwich! If something on tap suits you best, then a visit to Jimmy's Pub and Wild North Brewing Company will be sure to satisfy. Or a handcrafted cocktail at Frisky Whisky may be more your style!
The Right Stuff for Any Winter Activity
So you're keen to get out and play in the snow? With any outdoor winter activity being equipped and dressed is critical and Creston has a few great outdoors shops to help ensure you are prepared for any situation. For gear needs Summit Cycle and Sportsis the place to go. This downtown outdoor gear shop offers snowshoe and ski rentals — plus, they sharpen skates and tune up skis, too! Finally, If you are need of warm winter clothing like jackets, pants, boots and more for your upcoming adventures pop on over to Elevate Mountain Lifestyles, which provides a wide selection of quality outdoor gear brands that will have you appropriately outfitted for all conditions.
Just Scratching the Snowy Surface
Of course, the activities in this blog are just the beginning of the recreation opportunities to be found in the Creston Valley — and the Play section of our website will be a big help in finding more to do or go over and visit our Blog for more inspiration for things to do while you are exploring this winter. And of course for an idea of some of the upcoming events to take in explore our Upcoming Events Calendar too. Finally, be sure to check out our Stay section to find the perfect hotel, motel or B&B to use as your personal basecamp during your winter trip. However you choose to enjoy the wintry outdoors, you'll be sure to enjoy your time in the Creston Valley!
Freelance writer Brian Lawrence is a former editor and publisher of the Creston Valley Advance. In his spare time, he enjoys hiking and trail running, and acting in and directing productions with Creston's Footlighters Theatre Society.